Questions and answers about The Intimate Bond:
Why did you choose to write about animals and people?
My family is heavily involved with animals, but the real reason I got into this subject was a sense that animals, except for their domestication, had been in the background of a great deal of archaeological and historical inquiry. I was especially struck by the absence of coverage of the donkey, one of the great heroes of animal and human history. When I started the research, I found myself immersed in a fascinating, if at times heartrending, story.
How did you approach the story?
The obvious overall organization was chronological, starting in the late Ice Age and ending up with Victorian pets. In the end, I focused on eight animals, three of them ridden or used as pack beasts. This approach allowed me to tell a coherent story, yet the ability to branch out if need be to explore related issues, like, for example, animal cruelty movements and pit ponies—to say nothing of horse buses.
Is there anything here about climate change?
Only indirectly, for animals, like people, respond to climatic shifts. Perhaps the closest I come to this is with the ways in which pack animals conquered the Sahara and other deserts, which were not always as arid as they are today. One the reasons I wrote this book was a need for a change of gears . . .
What was the greatest challenge in writing this book?
I started off knowing effectively nothing about animals in history, so the research was at times almost overwhelming. It involved talking to all manner of experts, also delving extensively into both academic and popular literature, as well as some animal behavior. Turning this complex story into an interesting narrative for a wider audience was also a huge challenge. I hope that I’ve succeeded.
What book are you planning to write next?
I’m deep into research on a book about the history of fishing. This is quite a long way out, for, once again, the literature is very complex and the experts numerous. Besides, my cats have adopted my computer keyboard as a residence, which holds things up!